Fay Lansner at PGartventure

night_landscapeFay Lansner's fine art career began in the middle of the twentieth century when Abstract Expressionists were breaking new ground. This was the post-World War II art world - a time when the American avant-garde was beginning to achieve upper art world status. Lansner was in the mix of the 10th Street scene, a second-generation New York School artist who was showing with the Hansa Gallery (early 1950s). Artists she knew and exhibited with were Philip Guston, Lee Krasner, Willem de Kooning and Jim Dine. In the early days, Lansner studied at Hans Hoffman's school (1948-49) with the likes of Larry Rivers and Lee Krasner, who happened to be the class monitor. This is when Lansner created such works as the pastel on paper "Untitled" (Hoffman School) (1948), and the charcoal on paper "Figure with Round Belly" (1949) which both show a keen sense of design, composition, tone, and structure.

For Lansner's exhibition at PGartventure, gallery director Pascale Goldenstein selected pivotal works of the artist's career from the late 1940s to the early 1980s. The selected works show Lansner in constant flux. Her level of experimentation, and her willingness to "let go" and discover is very much of that era. A time when artists grew as individuals within a community -- unlike today, when every artist wants art stardom and $100,000 for each painting by the time they hit 30. No, Lansner makes art for herself, for her own enjoyment.

"Portrait of Ellen Oppenheim" (1951) shows Lansner's ability to quickly and somewhat automatically render a portrait that employs a gestural analysis to reveal the subject's intense personality and flexibly pensive mental state. Then you jump to "Night Landscape" (above) (mid-1950s), an oil on canvas that shows Lansner's sense of drama; within the fold of the psychological you see the first glimpse of her love of Henri Matisse.

My favorite work is "So Little" (1956), a stunningly simple yet beautiful drawing that calls to mind the classic portraits of Pablo Picasso when he was content to work within the fringes of the visible. And like the multiple images of the aforementioned "Portrait of Ellen Oppenheim," Lansner often superimposes multiple portraits as a method of operation. But unlike the Cubists, Lansner does this to show a portrait almost as a conversation between artist and model -- a sort of psychoanalytic relationship.

But there are other wonderful works in the exhibition which reveal additional approaches and aesthetics. The two "Reclining Nude" paintings and "3 Figures," all from the early 1960s, show more of that keen influence by the lyrical painter Matisse. "Blue Night" and Untitled," both pastel on canvas and both done in 1965, show the import of drawing line as it can fracture time and space.

Lansner also collaborated with the great poet Barbara Guest. In "Sadness and Felicity" and "Hot Turns" of 1982, Lansner over-paints the words of Guest onto loosely painted studio objects -- a combination and an aesthetic that has been around since the days of Apollinaire and is still very contemporary in feel and thinking. "Portrait of Barbara Guest" (1958) is a charcoal and pastel on paper, a potent image which shows Guest in a darkly introspective mood, while the classic features and distilled composition brings the work forward.

I applaud Pascale Goldenstein for opening her gallery in Larchment, NY, and for focusing her attention on artists you would not normally see in Westchester County. Her future program promises to break ground and bring to the fore, compelling works from Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as the U.S.A. - D. Dominick Lombardi

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D. Dominick Lombardi is an artist with representation in Kasia Kay Art Projects and in Chicago, Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon, NY, and ADA gallery in Richmond, VA; a writer with Sculpture, Sculpture Review, DART, and NYARTS; and an independent curator.

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